Executive Stock Options and the Mediation of Stockholder-Bondholder Conflicts
University of British Columbia FIN98-7
30 Pages Posted: 18 Aug 1998
Date Written: July 1998
Financial leverage does not distort investment decisions if executives are paid to maximize total firm value rather than equity value. Existing models of this idea imply that stock-based incentives should be negatively related to firm leverage, a prediction that has little empirical support. We show that the risk distortions induced by financial leverage can be overcome without diluting effort incentives by adjusting the exercise price of executive stock options. We also show that the necessary adjustments are similar to the common practice of granting options at-the-money. We then empirically examine the risk incentives of executive stock option plans in a large sample of Canadian firms. The evidence consistently supports the hypothesis that executive stock options mitigate the risk-taking incentives of shareholders in levered firms.
JEL Classification: G32, G31
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation